When my 94-year-old aunt, Edith Foster May, recently died, I inherited the family photos. While going through them, I unexpectedly came across photos taken of my uncle, Norman Foster.
There was one photograph of Uncle Norman where he was standing at the quintessential place to have one’s photograph taken, at Fish Creek Falls at that quintessential time of year to be at the falls — the peak of the runoff season.
Without ever knowing Norman had been to the falls, I have, over time, stood at the very same place with my sons and then, years later, with my grandchildren to have our picture taken. You may have stopped there. You may have photographs of yourself at the falls with your family, your dog, your friends.
In the photo, the falls are roaring behind Norman, so the picture must have been taken in June. Other photos of the outing show that Norman, who grew up in Craig, had come to Steamboat with his girlfriend Erma Dell Mack, his best friend Bill Lyons and Bill’s girlfriend — a double-date to Steamboat during which they went to Fish Creek Falls and then went swimming in the hot springs pool. It seemed the perfect outing for young adults to welcome the upcoming summer.
The photos are some the few things of Norman’s left to us. After he graduated from high school in 1943, he was drafted into the Army. On June 6, 1944, D-Day, during the Allied invasion of Normandy, France, Norman was killed. The amphibious landing craft he was on, which was one of the first to approach the Utah Beachhead early that fateful morning, struck an underwater mine. Norman never made it to shore.
I have been told that people are starting to forget about what happened during WWII, that ceremonies such as the ones held currently at Pearl Harbor and Normandy will become a thing of the past.
While the ceremonies may die, my family’s remembrance of Norman will live on. Only one of his siblings is still living. Donald Foster, now 92, lives in Phoenix. Norman’s nieces and nephews are heirs to his legacy. Even though we never knew Norman, we continue to honor his life and mourn his early death.
After the underwater mine planted by the Axis Powers blew Norman into eternity, the sound of that explosion has resonated through my mother’s family for generations. We are but one story of a soldier who did not come marching home from war. According to Wikipedia, military deaths of WWII range from 22 million to 25 million, including deaths in captivity of about 5 million prisoners of war. We share the loss of our uncle with millions upon millions of people from around the world who have lost a soldier during a war, no matter which side they were on.
As we approach Memorial Day and the 70th anniversary of D-Day, perhaps you are of the persuasion that it is time to move on, forget the soldiers who gave the ultimate sacrifice for their country. OK. Fine.
But if you believe we owe our fallen heroes more, stop for a moment when you are at the falls this summer. Join our family. Stand where my uncle stood more than 70 years ago. Remember that Norman Foster was here, that he was bright and funny, a prankster that everyone loved. Take a moment. Take a picture. Remember not only that Norman died for his country but remember also that he had every reason to live.